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  • StarChild Science Asks, What are the Children Thinking?

    Published on July 30, 2010

    As a young girl growing up in Canada, science teacher Judy Wilken recalls being hoisted up by her grandfather onto his his shoulders during the spring and summer months for a jaunt down the back alley to the post office to pick up the mail. On those excursions he encouraged her to look over the neighbors’ tall backyard fences and tell him what she saw. What she observed and described to her grandfather were tasty vegetables and plump fruits growing in abundance in ever-present kitchen gardens.

    Many decades later, motivated by a desire to make a difference in areas such as childhood obesity and sustainability of the food supply, Wilken, who makes her home in Carmel, California, has created a charming poster that evokes these childhood memories. In a naive style, Wilken depicts her view of a healthy neighborhood where there are kitchen gardens in every backyard. Peeking out from behind rows of houses are oversized vegetables and fruits, ripe and ready to be made into not pizzas and cupcakes, but veggie wraps, Mediterranean salads, tomato tarts, vegetable soups, corn frittatas, and cherry and raspberry smoothies, jams and jellies.

    Though whimsical and lighthearted in tone, the poster has a serious message to convey. It is intended to inspire

    whole neighborhoods, restaurants, schools and local farmers to ‘hear the call’ for a lifetime of healthy living. Wilken is deeply concerned about a number of issues that revolve around food and health. “This poster is a graphic depiction of ‘hear the call’ to participate in the formation of a healthy future for our children,” she says. “Thirty percent of our children are obese. This is the first generation of children who will not live as long as their parents, and that is unprecedented in human history and completely unacceptable not only to me but to every parent. I have a proposal for all parents, teachers, for every citizen, for providing a pathway for healthy living for our children. The StarChild Science Healthy Living Initiative is the name of my proposal.”

    “The proverb, ‘give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day, teach him how to fish and he’ll eat for a lifetime’ unveils the urgency in the current food crisis,” she says. “Crisis is always the harbinger of an overwhelming problem. But fortunately, crisis has two components–danger and opportunity. When faced with crisis, there is almost always a window of opportunity when intelligent action can avert most or at least some of the danger in the crisis. But we must recognize the opportunity in time and then act quickly and intelligently.

    “Give a child a carrot from a garden and he’ll eat for a day, teach him how to grow a garden and he’ll eat healthy foods for a lifetime and be free from obesity,” says Wilken. “The danger of becoming ill from obesity can be averted. And fortunately, the opportunity for living a lifetime free from obesity begins when a child plants a seed in his own backyard, his own school yard, at his community center. The opportunity for healthy living becomes more local than local. It becomes his own opportunity. He owns it. Carpe diem–seize the day with a seed! Grow something!”

    Wilken envisions her ‘hear the call’ posters in classrooms, health food markets, restaurants, farmers’ markets-any place where they are likely to have an impact and inspire children, families, to commit to healthy living by going more local than local.